Lynn Anderson Tribute

Lynn Anderson Tribute
Lynn with parents Liz & Casey

Lynn Anderson tribute . . .

NASHVILLE — Lynn Anderson, 67, died July 30, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, of a heart attack after having suffered pneumonia while on tour in Italy. The second generation singer-songwriter’s signature song “Rose Garden,” written by Joe South, spent five weeks at #1, also peaking #3 pop, earning her a best vocalist Grammy in 1970. Her platinum-selling “Rose Garden” album went Top 20 pop, remaining #1 country 14 of its 77 weeks charting Billboard and became the biggest album seller for a female country star.

Born Lynn Rene Anderson, Sept. 26, 1947 in Grand Forks, N.D., to songwriters Liz and Casey Anderson, she was an only child. Lynn thought nothing of seeing celebrated singers such as Del Reeves, Bonnie Owens and Merle Haggard visiting the family home, while growing up in San Jose and Sacramento, Calif. Of course, their visitations were prompted by Liz’s songwriting skills, which provided them hits like “Be Quiet Mind,” “Just Between the Two Of Us,” “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” and “(Lonesome) Fugitive,” the latter #1 co-written by Casey.

“Music was always a part of my family life. Mother would play piano or organ, her sister would play guitar, while another would beat on the drums or play a harmonica,” Lynn recalled in an early interview with this writer.

Liz said that as a youngster Lynn would try to hide the fact she wrote country songs, as she and her girlfriends were more into rock and roll. Lynn chuckled, recalling Liz driving her to school, “Mom would have a real country song by someone like Hank Williams playing, with the windows down. Well, there was a lot of surreptitious dial-turning by me!”

While in high school, Lynn was also into horses and began competing in horse shows, eventually earning a hundred trophies, two regional championships and the reserve championship at the Junior Grand National at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Years later, she was honored as the Horse Show Queen at the 1966 State Fair in Sacramento.

Nonetheless, her mother’s accomplishments encouraged a teen-aged Lynn to try her hand at playing guitar and singing, initially entering the televised series Country Corners’ talent contest. Smilingly, she shared with us that then her musical gods were Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers: “Now their stuff is what we call country, so I’ve really been an eclectic country music fan for a really long time.”

It was while in her freshman year at American River Junior College, agents from Lawrence Welk’s ABC-TV show invited her to join the cast in 1967. She proved a popular addition for two seasons, and her appearances in part led to a contract with Chart Records run by Slim Williamson, who had worked earlier with Casey.

Months earlier, her mother had signed a pact with Chet Atkins. Lynn pointed out, “When we came to Nashville, we came specifically for mother to get a record contract with RCA. But they started letting me sing (backup) on her sessions. In effect, they heard me and said, ‘Would you like a contract, too?’ I did feel guilty about it for awhile, because it was so easy for me, when in fact, it had taken mother years to get to that point.” (Chart’s product was then distributed by RCA.)

Actually, her mother wrote Lynn’s first Billboard entry “Ride, Ride, Ride,” which charted Oct. 29, 1966 and became a Top 40 single. It was followed by another Liz composition “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away),” which was an early 1967 Top Five breakthrough record for the Chart newcomer.

Lynn and daughter Lisa Lynn-1
Lynn with daughter Lisa Lynn

Lynn co-wrote her second Top Five single “Promises, Promises,” which charted in early December, and earned her best female vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music. By then the blonde beauty was being romanced by songwriter-producer Glenn Sutton, celebrating a best-song Grammy for his “Almost Persuaded” (David Houston’s cut). On May 4, 1968, while enjoying a Top 20 duet single with mom, “Mother, May I” (which they co-wrote); and another Top 10 solo “No Another Time,” Lynn wed Glenn. Her next two ’68 chartings were both penned by Liz: “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.” (This mother-daughter duo was 15 years ahead of The Judds.)

Meanwhile, Liz Anderson’s RCA recordings closed down after several Top 20 discs, including two Top Five singles “Game of Triangles” and “Mama Spank,” with her final charting for that label being “When I’m Not Looking” (1970). (Liz died in 2011.)

Now a true country convert, Lynn began a practice of reviving hits of veterans such as Hank Snow, Kitty Wells and The Osborne Brothers at Chart, notably “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and “Rocky Top,” a song she would sing in her shows for the next four decades.

Ben Peters wrote her biggest hit on Chart, “That’s a No No” (#2, 1969), followed not so spectacularly by the first Chart song Sutton penned for her (with Hugh X. Lewis): “He’d Still Love Me” (#15). But not surprisingly, Sutton prompted his bride to sign with his label, Columbia, and indeed fashioned her first Top 10 for them, “Stay There Till I Get There” (#7, 1970). Theirs would prove a successful partnership, including his skilled production on “Rose Garden,” helping to earn her both the Academy of Country Music’s and CMA’s best female vocalist honors in 1971, and Gold Records from 13 different countries worldwide.

Apart from producing chores, Sutton supplied three more #1 songs for Lynn:  “You’re My Man” (1971); “Keep Me In Mind” (1973); and “What a Man My Man Is” (1974). Her fifth #1 came courtesy of old friend Joe South in 1971: “How Can I Unlove You?” South also wrote her Top Five, “Fool Me” (1972). Other Sutton songs she recorded include “Sing About Love” (#3, 1973); “He Turns It Into Love Again” (#13, 1975); and “Rodeo Cowboy” (#44, 1976), prior to their divorce in 1977. (The couple had a daughter, Lisa Lynn, who today tends to the family publishing chores. Over cocktails, Lynn once confided she should have stayed married to Sutton.)

Other superb Lynn Anderson discs in the 1970s include “Cry,” “Listen To a Country Song,” “Top Of the World,” all Top Fives, and Warner Mack’s “Talkin’ To The Wall” (#7, 1974). Following her marital breakup, she charted Top 10 with “Isn’t It Always Love” (1979) and “Welcome To Tonight” (a 1983 duet with Gary Morris). In the late 1980s, Nelson Larkin took her under his wing at Mercury, producing two of her finer performances “Didn’t We Shine” and her last Top 20 “Under the Boardwalk” (in 1988, featuring a cameo by Billy Joe Royal), redoing the classic 1964 Drifters R&B song. Larkin by the way, co-wrote her final Billboard charting “How Many Hearts” (1989).

Tanya, Martina, Trisha and Lynn-B
Lynn Anderson with Tanya, Martina and Trisha

Apart from charting more than 60 singles on Billboard, Lynn listed more than 30 of her titles on the trade weekly’s album chart, including additional #1’s “Promises, Promises” (1968), and “You’re My Man” (1971), many of these crossing over into the pop lists. Anderson’s won People’s Choice and American Music mainstream awards, and was named Record World and Billboard’s Female Artist of the Decade (1970-1980).

Lynn Anderson enjoyed superstar status for two decades, appearing on most major TV programs, including those of Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and several times on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. She appeared on the popular crime drama Starsky & Hutch, and hosted her own 1977 TV special, sharing the stage with special guest Tina Turner. Lynn’s music can be heard in such movies as “Jaws” in a beach scene, and she appeared in the 1982 TV-film “Country Gold.” As singer Betsy Hall, she sang “Dream On” for the 1990 UK drama “The Wreck On the Highway,” which became a popular BBC song hit.

A second marriage to millionaire oilman Harold (Spook) Stream in 1978  was tumultuous at best, producing two children Melissa and Gray, but ended in a 1982 divorce, followed by rancorous court custody disputes. On the positive side, she overcame substance abuse problems and was once more enjoying family and making music. In 2004, she was proud that her “Bluegrass Sessions” CD garnered another Grammy nomination.

Anderson also expressed pride in her children, grandchildren, and that Lisa also had competed in horse shows. A life-time equestrian, Lynn became involved in horse-riding programs as therapy for disabled children.

Paul Williams, Oscar-winning songwriter (“Evergreen”) and national ASCAP president, said at Anderson’s Celebration of Life, Aug. 5, at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home, that he and she both “wrestled some of the same bears . . . I know how she struggled, and I know how she triumphed, and there is wisdom in the wound, and Lynn, you shared that wisdom. People will never know the times you walked into a corner with somebody, who was suffering, and didn’t know what they were going to do to get themselves back into the light and out of the darkness . . . (you’d) grab that person’s hand and say, ‘Baby, it’s gonna be all right’ . . . ”

Williams’ brother, songwriter Mentor Williams had been by her side over the past four decades as friend and lover, and Lynn recorded his hit “Drift Away” gospel-style, in tribute to him on her final CD “Bridges.” released in June 2015.

Another friend Brenda Lee in speaking to the assemblage, cited Lynn’s 1970 Grammy win, noting humorously, “Grammy was the hip name chosen by the grandchildren in honor of the grandmother that they loved . . . No rockin’ chairs or images of knitting in Lynn’s world.”

Survivors include her daughters Lisa Sutton, Melissa Hempel; son Gray Stream; four grandchildren; and father C. S. Anderson. A salute from singer Dolly Parton proclaimed Lynn was “blooming on God’s ‘Rose Garden’ now. We will miss her and remember her fondly.”                                                                    – Walt Trott




Leave a Reply